Some changes are in store for the recently-struggling Celtics, and we should start to see some of them starting next week. Both Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin should be returning from injuries, and their roles may be altered, at least somewhat.

The following numbers are graphic. I will compare the successful stretch (14/2 record) for November to the forgetful (6/5) last 11 games. Offensive Rating worsened from a middle-of-the-road 18th to 22nd. Defensive Rating fell from 2nd to 9th. Net Rating plummeted from a solid 6th to a too-mediocre 19th. Stay with me. I'll explain it.

The Pace quickened (more possessions) from 24th to 13th, but to no avail. The Assist Percentage (% of FG's with an assist attached) slid from 9th to 19th. Even with more possessions (Pace), assists/game remained constant (22.6-to-22.4). So what does all this indicate?

In the last 11 games, the offense went from middle-of-the-road to bad. Even the hallowed defense took a significant hit. The team got out of their passing mode and started free-lancing. Free throw attempts/game also went down (23.2-to-20.9) showing less of a tendency to drive into the paint.

I compared Aron Baynes career numbers to former Celtic, Kendrick Perkins. They are very close, although Perkins was a decent shot-blocker, and Baynes has slighter better hands. Kendrick was a luxury at center for Boston because he was surrounded by three prolific scorers. Aron is not. For all that Baynes brings to the team, he can't score from deep and even has trouble hitting down low. It makes sense to get Greg Monroe into that starting center spot and try him out with roughly 28 minutes per game.

Marcus Smart already plays starter-like minutes, and an experiment with him next to Kyrie Irving is worth a try. A solid low-post scorer like Greg Monroe needs to get the ball down low at the right time and in the right spot. Kyrie, Smart and Al Horford can do that. Marcus, if he has scorers around him (Irving and Horford), may be less likely to heave up untimely shots. And that starting lineup can handle the DeMar Derozan/Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Steph Curry/Klay Thompson (Warriors) and George Hill/J. R. Smith/Lebron James (Cavaliers) combos.

Terry Rozier has shown growth as a playmaker, and Shane Larkin could use more floor time at the point guard spot. Jaylen Brown at times seems to be mentally elsewhere. Trying him on the second unit may be in the cards.

The Celtics did just fine early in the season at a slower pace and assisting on more hoops. Time to go back to that. Getting the ball to Greg in the middle for a score or pass back out to an open shooter can open things up for more offensive opportunities. Driving into the paint shouldn't be left primarily to Kyrie. The Celtics defense falling like that lately should not have happened. That was mostly lack of effort, but filling in for Smart's ferocious, never-back-down defense may have produced fatigue in Brad Stevens troops. Feel free to voice your own thoughts.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Charles Krupa/AP

Tom Lane 2/16/2018 07:23:00 AM Edit
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